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Through The Wire: Chivalry Dies in Hollywood

Talk about going directly to the source: On the way toCTAM's Digital & Pay-Per-View Conference finale party in Los Angeles recently,Fox Channels Group Southwest regional director of affiliate sales Bruce Levinson andAT&T Broadband Dallas system marketing manager Julie Brady engaged in a spiriteddebate. The topic: Would The Insider star Russell Crowe or American Beautyleading man Kevin Spacey cop the best-actor Academy Award? As Levinson tells it, beforethe two walked into the party, they noticed a leather jacket-clad man smoking outsideof the party entrance. They moved closer to see that it was actually Crowe hanging out byhimself. Hoping to settle their debate, the two asked Crowe who he felt should win theaward. After Levinson said he believed Crowe should garner the award, the actor askedBrady who her favorite was. After lauding his performance, Brady admitted she was leaningtoward Spacey. Crowe slowly turned toward Brady, called her a "f___ing toad" andwalked off into the night.

Those politicians on Capitol Hill never miss a chance tolink the cause of the day to their personal history. During a hearing last Thursday on abill to supply millions of dollars in loan guarantees to satellite providers of local TVsignals, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said such a service could have change the course ofhis family's history a century ago. "I know that my grandfather andgrandmother would not have left the farm in Ireland if they had local-into-localdirect-broadcast [satellite] service," Markey drolly observed. To which Rep. BillyTauzin (R-La.) replied: "With St. Patty's Day coming tomorrow, it is an absoluteenlightenment to me to learn that it was the potato-couch famine that sent your family toAmerica."

Pacific Bell has cranked up the competitive heat in theSouthern California high-speed-data wars. It's currently running commercials thatbeat cable over the head with its own argument against open access -- that it will clogthe pipe. The spots depict a neighborhood in chaos: kids painting "Webhog" in bright-red letters on the neighbor's garage. Another suburbanite sticksa hose into a neighbor's car window. A little old lady takes a weed whacker to thenext-door neighbor's flower bed. The mailman explains that it used to be a niceneighborhood until they had to share. The solution: "Your own" digitalsubscriber line. After viewing, a Wire correspondent imagined the sound of cable engineersscreaming, "All networks are shared!"

A short announcement in Los Angeles-area papers sent teensin a stampede to West Hollywood last week in search of MTV fame. Each thought they had theright stuff for the network: 18 to 24 years old, outgoing, willing to show their truecolors on the air. "Squeamish, faint-of-heart wimps need not apply," thenetwork warned. MTV wouldn't fess up regarding the turnout, citing competitivedevelopment reasons. But the cattle call is for a new series named Fear, theywhispered. Stay tuned

New T-commerce player Commerce.TV shelled out some majorcash on a novel marketing approach at the Eastern Show in Atlanta last week. The company,pitching a technology similar to Wink Communications' product, asked attendees whostopped by their booth for their business cards before running them through a demo. Oneexec would run around the back of the booth to punch the addresses on the cards into thesystem, while a marketer would show attendees how they could purchase everything frommovies (The Cable Guy was one offering) to kids' pajamas through thetransaction-processing network. The Wire said yes when asked if we liked to golf, and beforewe had a chance to say we weren't looking for tchotchkes, one marketer clickedthe remote and said to expect a box of golf balls in the mail "within 48 hours."Company president Matt Kay said more than 250 attendees went through the demo and weresent freebies (cable subscribers will obviously have to pay for their orders). He addedthat it was a worthwhile expense to prove that the system -- hooked up to a data center inBoston -- works. The company plans the same approach at May's National Show, whichcould be a pricey endeavor.

Discovery Channel's Raising the Mammoth scoredjumbo ratings last week -- the highest rating yet for a cable documentary. But since thetwo-hour special ended with the creature still encased in its block of ice (except for itshumongous tusks), one Wire correspondent wondered if we can now expect a sequel -- Thawingthe Mammoth?

By Kent Gibbons, from bureau reports.